Daptone Records, in a perfect world, would have its own monument somewhere. The Brooklyn outfit has consistently released some of the most amazing soul and funk records of the last decade or so. With ?Como Now,? they take a different take on Black music, but the result is, if anything, more inspired and revelatory than anything they have done.
This is a series of recordings done in Panola County, Mississippi. Como is a small town whose heart and foundation is the Mt. Mariah Church. Daptone producers placed a small ad in the local paper inviting residents to come to the church to be recorded singing their favorite gospel tunes. The result was a mother load of inspired, powerful and deeply moving songs by everyday folk. All the tunes are acapella,
Giving more weight and history to the testimony. These are not songs just sung on Sunday; they are lifelines that have been woven into the personal story of the singers. This is an area of the country that has suffered much, and has been studied much, providing academics and activists and folklorists raw data on poverty, racism and a catalog of traditional music. But ?Como Now? is no dry field recording. It is planted firmly in the present, and takes the pulse of a still beating, and huge heart.
All of the sixteen tracks bristle with knowing wisdom and faith, and with gritty lessons of survival. That the artists are parishioners with no interest in being recorded makes their performances all the more powerful. From The Jones Sisters to Como Mamas; from Rev. Robert Walker to The John Edwards Singers, each track is both universal and intensely private. When you hear Della Daniels and Ester Mae Smith sing ?Jesus Builds a Fence Around Me? or Irene Stevenson?s ?If It Had Not Been for Jesus,? you are hearing as deep a testimony to human hope and frailty as you are likely to hear. Yes, it is that good.
?Como Now? is destined to become a classic, and as historic a record as it is a powerful document of great gospel music. Even given the inanity and overload of the internet, one of its lessons has been that there are thousands of ordinary people with ideas and talents equal to or better than what is popular. This release is in that vein: ordinary people capable of rising to greatness quietly and without caring about being heard, except by God and the people of their community. 10/10 -- Mike Wood (16 July, 2008)